Oct 21 2010

What Lies Beneath

Melissa Crytzer Fry

I hear you already (knowing you’ve peeked below at the rock photo). Ugh! Boring! Rock licker! Mother Earth! Science geek! All fair shout-outs, I suppose.

But before you click far, far away from my post, stay with me, please. This post isn’t all about rocks or the fascinating things I’m learning in my geology class. It’s about noticing and appreciating the things around you – and not seeing a dirty rock as “just a rock,” but understanding the incredible processes that formed the rocks under your feet. Seeing things differently. All things, really.

This is a piece of quartz, found atop one of the hills on our property. Click to enlarge.

So what is so exciting about looking at the ground and the terrain around you? For starters, it tells a story – of climate change, erosion, weather conditions, and even life – as fossils are often contained within. I learned, personally, that the black and white Oracle granite chunks I find strewn across my property are 1.4 billion years old. And that granite is actually magma that formed in chambers deep underground and slowly cooled, only revealed over time by erosion and the uplift of plates. I find all of that supremely incredible to consider.

When you look around, think about the natural processes that occurred to make your surroundings they way they are today: deposition, weathering, erosion. And aren’t we, as human beings, shaped in the same way? Don’t life experiences deposit upon us, forming our character and making us who we are? Don’t we weather from difficult experiences, from the passing of time, from illness and tribulations? Can’t parts of us erode – the bad and the good? Aren’t we continually in development, changing, just like the environment around us?

For Writers: As I was sitting in class, I realized how geology parallels character development. You may recall, from your early Earth science classes, that there are three types of rocks:

  • Igneous –formed by fire
  • Sedimentary – formed from sediments
  • Metamorphic – from the Greek, meaning ‘changed’

What kind of character is your protagonist? Is she igneous? A firey, tell-it-like-it-is gal? Or is she more sedimentary? More even-keeled and well-rounded, formed from years of experiences, delicately stacked, layer upon layer?

She might even be a combination of the two: metamorphic in nature – firey as a youth, but accumulating sediments – positive experiences in her adult years – only to be exposed and changed by something difficult later in life, something that metamorphoses her personality yet again?

Perhaps all of our characters are a bit of each? Aren’t they all formed by the experiences around them, and changed daily by newer experiences and events?

2 Responses to “What Lies Beneath”

  • Rachna Chhabria Says:

    Thanks Melissa, for transporting me to school. I relieved my geography classes all over again.

    Hmmm..my characters are a bit of all three. Depending on the situation they reveal their traits.

    Actually even I am a bit of all three; more Igneous than Sedimentary and Metamorphic.:)


  • Melissa Says:

    You make a good point, Rachna, that situations can change a character’s personality. Even the most demure character, when pushed or in danger, can exhibit uncharacteristic responses! Maybe most writers are the igneous type? Me too 🙂


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